Azis is the Administrator of “Ex-Muslims Atheist.” Here we talk some ex-Muslim communities.
Scott Douglas Jacobsen: How did you become involved in the ex-Muslim community?
Azis: I became involved in the ex-Muslim community around 3 years ago. I was not a part of the community until a year later after I found out about the “Ex-Muslim Atheist” page and soon became involved with other ex-Muslims and befriending some of them.
I remain friends with them to this day. The journey was actually what most closeted ex-Muslims go through. Curiosity leads to great things here as I was a silent lurker for most and became active after I found more people like me and now, here I am.
Jacobsen: What were some pivotal moments in questioning the tenets of Islam?
Azis: The pivotal moments came when my best friend died by suicide in 2015. I was a devout Muslim for most of my life, but I became a skeptic after I reached the age of 13-14.
There were some historical inaccuracies that led me to question the severity of the claim such as the female infanticide and the kingdom of Solomon but I never truly did question the verses in the Quran out of fear.
Then Charlie Hebdo took place right in 2015, I began to question myself and my faith. Seeing Muslims commenting about that wasn’t “true” Islam despite the fact that it was very much condoned by it yet at the same time, these same people were celebrating their deaths made me upset.
That was the day my morality took over my blind faith. It helped me see clearly. But after my father died in the same year, I became more devout but my skepticism already grew and the fear faded away slowly.
I began reading more and more so as to fulfill the role of a good Muslim man in my family after he died but only found myself with more contradictions in the Quran.
I found myself losing faith in the community I used to love. My best friend, whom I met in 2014, taught me more about love than Islam ever did. She taught me that I can be a better person, even without religion, and to see her die broke me in a way no one could ever describe.
Not even myself. That was the day I question why God would take away someone I love. I was not disappointed in God, however. Because the next year, I discovered that none of it is real. I just couldn’t muster the courage to fully admit it out of fear.
Jacobsen: What parts of Islam simply make no sense whatsoever?
Azis: Me personally, the part where Muhammad supposedly split the moon in two, the way he described how sperm came from the ribs and how he flew on a winged-horse akin to other ancient myths that predate the tale.
These were the ones that baffled me only for me to learn that there were more like these. That was the day I actually began to read the Quran instead of reading the Arabic verses.
Jacobsen: How can questioning Muslims begin to take the next step into becoming ex-Muslims – simply questioning some basic ethical precepts or truth/factual assertions of the faith?
Azis: In my experience, the way to get Muslims into questioning themselves is by getting them to question their own morals. People only want to talk about science if they think they know about the subject, despite the fact what they know of the subject is ill-informed.
Much like how anti-vaxxers want to talk about vaccines but only if it’s against vaccine itself. If you present them with facts right away, their cognitive dissonance will kick in and protect them from questioning the truth. Some are able to get them thinking logically but that takes quite the process.
But nothing really gets them from questions quite like a kick in their morals. Isn’t it funny how most Muslims are morally better than the faith itself?
Questions like “Is it okay to beat your wife if they refuse sex?” “Do you think it’s okay to take in slaves and sell them?” “Do you think killing people in the name of God is justifiable?” “Do you think people being tortured in hell is logical and merciful?”
Most ex-Muslims that came to me were already skeptical about the illogical verses and knew that they are scientifically inaccurate but the fear of hell and god itself is what keeps them from leaving. Tackle these issues first and see the result.
Jacobsen: Why was “Ex Muslims Atheist” started in the first place?
Azis: I came to “Ex Muslim Atheist” only months after the page started. I became aware of its existence in early 2017. I was in a Facebook group and someone had shared one of the page’s post where the founder, Harris Sultan, was threatened by extremists with death.
I came and helped with some of the posts by debating with the remaining visitors and offered them psychological questions, much like what I hinted above. He was impressed with the way I answered them and offered me to become an admin. I officially became an admin weeks later, however.
Jacobsen: What is its function as a page?
Azis: The page’s function serves as a tool to help Muslims questions the things they were afraid to know or didn’t know about whatsoever. However, the page has become a safe place of sort for closeted ex-Muslims to share their harrowing stories of leaving Islam and offer them support.
Kind of like a therapy, in a way. We have also helped ex-Muslims escape their countries and find asylum somewhere and we’re hoping to rescue more as soon as I find a way out of my own country as well.
We’re hoping to create an organization solely on the rescue of atheists in Islamic countries. But until then, the page will remain the same way it originally serves to offer.
Jacobsen: What are other social media groups like it? Ones to be recommended for continual visiting for good content.
Azis: To my knowledge, there aren’t as many support groups for ex-Muslims on social media. There are plenty of pages that offer the same as us, but in terms of support, they are scarce in number.
A good site where I can recommend them to find support and make them feel less alone is a subreddit “Ex Muslims”. You will find many that are just like us there. Though the page does get Muslim trolls every now and then so be careful.
Jacobsen: Of those ex-Muslims giving a voice for other ex-Muslims and doing good work, who are they?
Azis: Not a person but a page that is doing good work is a page called “Ex-Muslims of North America”, “Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain”, and “ExMuslim TV”.
I recommend if you have a story to tell yourself without having to worry about being taken out of context or used against you, go there. Or come to us and we’ll help you the same.
Jacobsen: How can others help ex-Muslims help themselves in extricating themselves from the oppression of fundamentalist religion?
Azis: The answer to this question is; listen. Just listen. Let ex-Muslims speak for themselves because that’s what they have been clamouring for so long. To have someone to listen to them and not be judged for it. This is how you help them be free from the intricacies of the fundamentalists. A safe space for the secularists and free-thinkers can do great things. Not only that, they have impressive knowledge about Islam – something that many don’t know of, quite surprisingly. The thing that often steers ex-Muslims to the far-right is not the far-right themselves but kind-hearted liberals who seeks to silence other ex-Muslims from speaking because they believe what we know of Islam isn’t as lovely as they hear from other Muslims. They marginalize us despite the fact that we are the most oppressed group of people in the world. I, myself, am a leftist liberal and I fear that my fellow ex-Muslims turn into the far-right and the most common complain that I hear is that liberals are (one of) the main factor to this. Believe me, most of us are liberals ourselves. We believe in the value of freedom and acceptance. Something Islam is clearly against. We do not wish to see the world become more conservative as it is. We have experienced that here in our own Islamic countries.
Jacobsen: How can others support organizations like the ex-Muslim councils or the public figures, or the social media groups or pages, in their efforts in bringing forward a confident ex-Muslim community and collective voice?
sure they are not alone. Keep on supporting and cheering them if you wish to
fight against the oppression from the fundamentalists but make sure they are
all safe first. If they’re still in an Islamic country, give them options to
help them leave.
Give them a platform to speak, a platform to write, a platform to share. This is how you can build a generation of confident ex-Muslims all around the world.
Jacobsen: Any final feelings or thoughts in conclusion?
Azis: My final thoughts about this is simple: Thank you. Thank you for giving me a chance to speak. Thank you for giving me a chance to share my stories. I sincerely hope that this will be helpful, not just for the ex-Muslims, but to everyone else reading this. Isn’t it great to have someone to listen to you?
Jacobsen: Thank you for the opportunity and your time, Azis.
Scott Douglas Jacobsen is the Founder of In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal and In-Sight Publishing. He authored/co-authored some e-books, free or low-cost. If you want to contact Scott: Scott.D.Jacobsen@Gmail.com.
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